How does fear put a halt to your life steps?
Finally. Life is settling down. I’m back on my feet from my ankle injury, sort of. We put our daughter on a plane for a work program in China for six weeks. I finished my last novel, wrote the book proposal, submitted it to my agent, and did some rewrites. I finished the current session of my women’s bible study and organized my ministry team for my responsibilities for our church’s Vacation Bible School. I finished my part of my new Web design and turned it over to my web designer. I wrote some query letters for a magazine, proposing some articles to write for next year’s theme list.
Now it’s time to start working on my next novel. I dragged my feet, wasting several days. I pretended it was not knowing what story to tackle first (I’ve got at least five ideas). The inner core truth was I was duking it out with the monster called Fear.
Fear? What’s there to be afraid of about a little ole’ novel? It’s not like I’ve never written one before.
News of a compressed publishing industry deepened my fear. A large Christian bookstore chain has declared bankruptcy and a major Christian publisher has determined to no longer publish fiction. The odds of ever giving a fiction book published diminish by the day. I was discouraged. I even expressed my fear to other clients of my agent. Why bother wasting so much time writing when it may never go anywhere. No, it wasn’t discouragement. It was fear.
I spent a morning facing my fear. What was I afraid of?
Fear of failure. Fear of diving into a deep end project and getting over my head. Fear of not finishing the race, of not being successful. Fear that God will disqualify me because I didn’t succeed. I might not do a good enough job, it won’t get published, then I will have wasted all that time that I could have been doing something more effective for the Kingdom of God. Fear that I might get to the end of my life and find out I wasn’t doing what God wanted me to be doing in the first place, that I let down the Lord I love.
By now you are probably rolling your eyes and shaking your head at my silliness. Or maybe you are slowly nodding your head because you’ve been there too.
Wait. There’s more.
I’m afraid of success. I’m afraid of the lonely hours writing, of having to say no to people who won’t understand my need to fully emerge myself in the writing of a novel. I’m afraid I won’t have the support system I need to do the research, market the book, plan the blog tours, bang my head on my desk because the words aren’t coming out like I want them to, or to help me edits, proofreading and honest critiques to make my best better.
I’m afraid I can’t do this by myself. I’m afraid I’m not good enough, skilled enough or strong enough.
Sheesh, some of you are saying, doesn’t this woman know that the Bible says 365 times, “Do not fear?”
Writing is a scary business. You have to walk so much of it alone, yet you have to build up a platform of people who think well enough of your ideas that they’re willing to sacrifice hard earned money to buy your words. I’m afraid people won’t like me or my thoughts that much. I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid that there may actually be those who don’t like my words and will react in unpleasant ways toward my thoughts.
Do you ever feel any of these emotions as you face something new? Something above your work grade? Deep down, do you wonder if your choice of activities is letting God down?
The next question I asked myself that morning was this: How would God answer my fear other than those 365 admonitions to not fear?
So many times in Scripture, God will give a command then give the reason why. His greatest reason for no fear is found in Isaiah 41:10:
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
How can this knowledge about God dispel my fear?
God works in the process. My successes come during the journey, not at the end. God calls me to be faithful, not successful. He is with me through the journey. My task is to trust Him and be obedient to Him in whatever I choose to do. As my agent reminded our group, we never know who we might help, minister to, or reach out to in the process of writing that book. If we bring even one person to Christ, or encourage one person to move forward in the Kingdom of God, it’s worth it. We may never how our words or deeds impact others. Impact of our efforts is God’s business. We just need to be faithful.
Colossians 3:17 says,
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (NIV)
God wants our partnership. Of course, writing a novel is bigger than I can handle. Most if not all callings from God are too big for us. That’s what makes them God-sized projects. Frankly, as I ponder my feelings of inadequacy, I am exactly where God wants me to be. He wants me to realize that I can’t do this on my own, that I need His help. And He’s so creative! His help will come in many different forms, through many ways and many people. Part of starting a new project is the delight and excited anticipation of saying, “Okay God, how are You going to show Yourself in this one?” This is the moment that I send a personal invitation to my Lord, asking Him for the privilege of His presence.
Don’t be dismayed. He is your God. That means He is more than capable of handling anything He has asked you to do.
God is in charge of the program. Every life leaves unfinished business. God will not flunk me from heaven if I don’t get all my writing projects done! He won’t even give me a failing grade for taking on more than I can finish. Our faith is about faith—belief in Jesus Christ—not in our accomplishments. It’s not how many books I can get written, how many baby caps I can make for St. Jude’s Hospital, or how many Sunday School lessons I can teach.
Life is in the being, not the doing. It is about who I am while I do what I do. Life is in the “whatever” of Colossian 3:17. Whatever I do is to be to His glory and done in a spirit of thankfulness to Jesus Christ my Savior. As I strive to serve Him, He will give me the strength and wisdom I need. He will uphold me in my efforts with His righteous right hand.
As I sway to the music of my next novel, God asks of me, “May I have this dance for the rest of your life?” I want to lay aside my mantel of fear, place my hand on His shoulder, smile into His face and say a confident, “Yes.” I leave it to Him to teach me the steps from that point.
Oh, back to my next novel. What’s the book about anyway, you ask.
It’s about fear. It’s about a young woman facing her greatest fear. Sounds like the one God is going to move along the most from this book is—ME.